Increased water insecurity is driving creativity on the preservation front. Mitigation efforts range from individual commitments to reduce water consumption (through the use of water efficient appliances, faucets, toilets, shower heads, and reduced irrigation), to local water reduction mandates, to large-scale water reuse projects and technologies. One technology that has been employed for 40 years is Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR), also known as deep injection wells. ASR is the injection of surface water supplies into an aquifer for later recovery and use, such as in times of drought. Florida has used such technology for as long as it has been available and is key to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
CERP originated in 2000 when Congress authorized the plan to “restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection.” The state intends to expand the current plan that focuses south of Lake Okeechobee to areas north of the lake as proposed in Florida Senate Bill 94. In the past, flood control projects were implemented to protect areas of development from seasonal flooding but have unfortunately funneled an overabundance of stormwater into the Kissimmee River and south to Lake Okeechobee. The quantity of water flow impacts the quality of the water, as faster flows don’t allow stormwater to move through vegetation at a rate slow enough to become clean. Consequently, water flows into the lake with high concentrations of phosphorus. The expansion of ASR will slow the flow of water into Lake Okeechobee while allowing large quantities of water to be stored for later use without requiring vast expanses of land for above-ground storage. This is key as the “geology of the watershed north of the lake means deep reservoirs are not an option there.”
Due to the broad utilization of ASR technology proposed in the CERP, data collected on previously constructed ASR systems was reviewed by the National Research Council in 2015. The Council recommended that ASR be phased in over time for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP), allowing time for study of the system to parallel the ASR continued development. The resulting plan, called the 2021 ASR Science Plan, has an estimated cost of $2 billion and includes 80 ASR wells priced at $400 million. LOWRP, as a component of CERP, will be funded equally by state and federal government. The Florida Legislature previously allocated $100 million in 2019 and 2020 for the northern part of the project.
 Elsken, Katrina. “Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Science Plan Open to Public Review.” South Central Florida Life, 8 Feb. 2021, www.southcentralfloridalife.com/stories/aquifer-storage-and-recovery-asr-science-plan-open-to-public-review,15795.
Photo credit: B A Bowen Photography, Flickr